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Embracing equity through enterprise

06th March 2023

Meet the women in business who are transforming their homeland, and helping to grow a Great Green Wall across the African continent:

“Before this Tree Aid project, I was just a housewife… I didn’t know how to farm, and I had no other skills – joining Kanyitiwale Group gave me a voice. Because of this project, I've experienced love and respect - now, I'm always with friends.”  
- Gladys, Ghana 

Climate change is making life increasingly difficult for women like Gladys, who live in rural areas in the drylands of Africa. With temperatures in this region rising by nearly 1°C between 1970-2000, drought, wildfires and flooding are now all too common. These conditions add an additional pressure for women whose lives are already dominated by challenges, from feeding their families to political instability, gender inequality and land degradation.

But there is hope, and Gladys’ story is testament to this. The solutions to these ‘triple burdens’ lie in equipping women have the skills and agency to determine their own futures – and by bringing them together through business. 

Tackling poverty and isolation, Tree Aid projects help bring women together to run businesses, which increase their independence through collaboration, providing women with a much-needed support network and the opportunity to borrow money.   

“If you are suffering, if you need money, you can go and ask, and the group will lend to you”, Gladys told us. 

Growing resilience through business

During our 2022 Winter appeal, 'Resilience In a Nutshell', we introduced the women from Gladys' community in Ghana's West Gonja region. Together, they have been able to increase their income, by growing and selling drought-hardy cashew trees and high-protein legumes. 

Tree crops like these are a sustainable food source and an excellent way to restore land. Between the cashew trees, women are intercropping high yields of groundnuts, which provide an additional income whilst returning nutrients to the soil. 

Nsormabilah Thomas, Serina Sumani, and Gladys Galyuoni, are all groundnut farmers from Ghana’s West Gonja District, part of a collaborative  business group or Village Tree Enterprise (VTE), they have been working together to grow resilient incomes from their land. 

The Village Tree Enterprise (VTE) group they are part of has been transformational - working collaboratively, women can build financial resilience against climate shocks, and ensure equality with their male counterparts.

“We make more money if we sell as a group, so once we harvest, we bring all our groundnuts together and take it to Tamale or Techiman to sell. Those are much bigger markets than the ones we have here, so we get better value” - Serina told us.

Support, from seed to sale 

Growing futures free from poverty starts with transforming the land, but Tree Aid projects support women to achieve so much more. Women grow trees which grow businesses and we support communities like Serina’s to make and sell tree products that kick-start this journey. 

Before beginning any Tree Aid project, we conduct research about local women’s priorities to establish what training would be of most help to them. In establishing Village Tree Enterprise groups in Burkina Faso, for example, the data we collected revealed that women wanted to strengthen existing community groups, so that’s what we did. 

By branching into business and producing products like groundnut oil, shea butter and soap, the income women make from their businesses pays for essential healthcare and education and also food, when homegrown crops fail due to increasingly erratic weather. 

Beyond business - growing the Great Green Wall

The impact of the VTEs have far reaching implications. Not only do they grow incomes, resilience and confidence, but they ensure that women are empowered to become ‘guardians of the forests’ - protecting trees along the Great Green Wall, the global endeavour to hold back Sahara desert and sequester carbon. 

Women are pivotal in easing the impacts of the climate crisis in the drylands of Africa. Women are responsible for gathering and processing forest resources, and for improving living conditions, nutrition and schooling of their families. They have a vested interest in restoring the land. 

When it comes to forest governance and land rights, it is through equal access and ownership that women in this region come into their own. In raising the voice of women in the drylands of Africa, Tree Aid champion an equitable approach to managing the land in our locally focused advocacy. The success of this is demonstrated by the improvements we see in income, but also through recognition of our work from African leaders and partners. 

With the continued support of our partners across the world, we can elevate more women like Gladys, and Serina, to be the business leaders of the future.